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Looking around America these days, if you can stand it, the sense of what it means to be a man has become a very shaky business. I was studying one particular tattooed moron, twenty-something, in the gym Saturday. He had on display a full sleeve-job of “tribal” skin décor in that curvy blade-like motif that invokes a general idea of ninja swordplay. Perhaps he really was a dangerous dude, a Navy Seal just back from slitting Taliban throats in Nangarhar. More likely, he was a fork-lift operator in the local Ace Hardware distribution center. He seemed to resent my attention — but then why had he taken so many pains to adorn himself?
Is it not interesting that so many males in America affect to be warriors? What does this tell us about the psychological dimensions of manhood in this country? If I have to guess, I’d venture that many people of the male persuasion hereabouts can’t imagine any other way of being a man — other than as a fine-tuned bringer-of-death, preferably some species of cyborg, with “techno” bells and whistles. This is obvious fodder from the many Transformer and Robocopmovies, the dream of becoming a most excellent killing machine.
This ethos was on hyperwarp display in Sunday’s NFL football playoffs, football being, after all, mock warfare with mock warriors. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick’s arm tattoos were hard to decipher even on a large high-def flatscreen. At first I thought they were maps of suburban Milwaukee, or perhaps the full text of Jude the Obscure but it turns out (I looked it up) they record his ongoing life “narrative,” his triumphs and distinctions, his mom’s heart transplant, and his dealings with the fugitive deity known as Jesus Christ. Between scoring drives, Colin vamped on the sidelines in a red Cholo hat, one of those ball caps featuring an exquisitely flattened brim designed to make the wearer look like a homicidal clown — which is the favored motif of aspiring criminals abroad in the land nowadays. As Lon Chaney, the master of horror, once remarked apropos of his character creation technique, “There’s nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.” The objective: to look as ridiculous as possible and yet give off a vibe of unpredictable danger and violence.
Colin was hardly the sole creature on the field adorned with ink. At times, the scrimmage looked like the recreation yard at the Washington State Penitentiary. But that brings us to another theme of contemporary American manhood having to do with the grand initiation rite of serving time in prison. There is a meme on the loose, especially among the hopeless idealists, that American jails are filled with “political prisoners.” This is just not so. Though our drug laws are certainly idiotic, cruel, and pointless, I believe sincerely that the prison system is filled with psychopathic monsters. They may be creations of our monster-making culture, in all its depravity and pernicious falsity, but they are monsters nonetheless.
But the romance of monsterdom is yet another theme in the current caboodle of American manhood. Boys are in love with monsters, and want to be them, or like them, or with them, and nowadays many succeed at that. The indulgence in all these juvenile enthusiasms presents in the absence of any better models of a way to be. The time is not distant when a lot of things are going to shake loose in this land, and when that happens, there will be monsters amongst us everywhere: tattooed clowns in baby clothes with large muscles and weapons. Really, what are the chances that such people reared on dreams of triumphal violence will operate on the basis of kindness, generosity, and consideration of any future beyond the next fifteen minutes.
Let’s face it, the reason we do the things we do, and act the way we act, is because American manhood is in full failure mode, in full retreat from what used to be known as virtue. We wouldn’t know what this is anymore if it jumped up and bit us on the lips. I’m afraid it will take very stern leadership to reform all these current trends. When it comes around, it will look like Dolly Parton meets Hitler.
I was born and raised in New York City, on the east side of Manhattan (with a brief intermezzo in the long Island Suburbs (1954 – 1957) though I have lived upstate, two hundred miles north of the city, for decades since. I go back from time to time to see publishers and get some cosmopolitan thrills. One spring morning a couple of years back, toward the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s reign, I was walking across Central Park from my hotel on West 75th Street to the Metropolitan Museum of Art when I had an epiphany.
Which was that Central Park, and indeed much of the city, had never been in such good condition in my lifetime. The heart of New York had gone through a phenomenal restoration. When I was a child in the 1960s, districts like Tribeca, Soho, and the Bowery were the realms of winos and cockroaches. The brutes who worked in the meatpacking district had never seen a supermodel. Brooklyn was as remote and benighted as Nicolae Ceausescu’s Romania. The Central Park Zoo was like a set from Riot in Cellblock D, and the park itself was desecrated with the aging detritus of Robert Moses’s awful experiments in chain-link fencing as a decorative motif. Then, of course, came the grafitti-plagued 1970s summed up by the infamous newspaper headline [President] Ford to City: Drop Dead.
Now, the park was sparkling. The sheep’s meadow was lovingly re-sodded, many of Frederick Law Olmsted’s original structures, the dairy, the bow bridge, the Bethesda Fountain, were restored. Million dollar condos were selling on the Bowery. Where trucks once unloaded flyblown cattle carcasses was now the hangout of movie and fashion celebrities. Brooklyn was a New Jerusalem of the lively arts. And my parents could never have afforded the 2BR/2bath apartment (with working fireplace) that I grew up in on East 68th Street.
The catch to all this was that the glorious rebirth of New York City was entirely due to the financialization of the economy. Untold billions had streamed into this special little corner of the USA since the 1980s, into the bank accounts of countless vampire squidlets engaged in the asset-stripping of the rest of the nation. So, in case you were wondering, all the wealth of places like Detroit, Akron, Peoria, Waukegan, Chattanooga, Omaha, Hartford, and scores of other towns that had been gutted and retrofitted for suburban chain-store imperialism, or served up to the racketeers of “Eds and Meds,” or just left for dead — all that action had been converted, abracadabra, into the renovation of a few square miles near the Atlantic Ocean.
Nobody in the lamebrain New York based media really understands this dynamic, nor do they have a clue what will happen next, which is that the wealth-extraction process is now complete and that New York City has moved over the top of the arc of rebirth and is now headed down a steep, nauseating slope of breakdown and deterioration, starting with the reign of soon-to-be hapless Bill de Blasio.
Mayor Bloomberg was celebrated for, among other things, stimulating a new generation of skyscraper building. There is theory which states that an empire puts up its greatest monumental buildings just before it collapses. I think it is truthful. This is what you are now going to see in New York, especially as regards the empire of Wall Street finance, which is all set to blow up. The many new skyscrapers recently constructed for the fabled “one percent”— the Frank Gehry condos and the Robert A.M. Stern hedge fund aeries — are already obsolete. The buyers don’t know it. In the new era of capital scarcity that we are entering, these giant buildings cannot be maintained (and, believe me, such structures require incessant, meticulous, and expensive upkeep). Splitting up the ownership of mega-structures into condominiums under a homeowners’ association (HOA) is an experiment that has never been tried before and now we are going to watch it fail spectacularly. All those towering monuments to the beneficent genius of Michael Bloomberg will very quickly transform from assets to liabilities.
This is only one feature of a breakdown in mega-cities that will astonish those who think the trend of hypergrowth is bound to just continue indefinitely. It will probably be unfair to blame poor Mr. de Blasio (though he surely can make the process worse), even as it would be erroneous to credit Michael Bloomberg for what financialization of the economy accomplished in one small part of America.
China Plans To Seize South China Sea Island From Philippines, Says “Battle Will Be Restricted” | Zero Hedge
Following Japan’s proclamations that it will take over another 280 ‘disputed ownership’ islands, it appears the increasingly dis-approved of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s path of militarism and provocation is working. As China Daily Mail reports,citing experts, China intends to take back Zhongye Island – ‘illegally’ occupied by the Philippines, according to the Chinese. The Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea. Philippines military is building up on the island and the Chinese see as ‘intolerable’ the “arrogance” relying on US support. It seems the Obama administration may have to ‘not take sides’ in another fight soon.
Background on the build-up…
Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, mayor of the Kalayaan island group, part of the contested Spratly islands administered by the Philippines, recently confirmed that the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed new air force troops in rotation to the disputed island of Thitu, according to Jaime Laude in a report for the Manila-based Philippine Star on Jan. 5.
Known as Pag-asa in the Philippines and Zhongye island by both China and Taiwan, Thitu is the second largest in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea and the largest of all Philippine-occupied Spratly islands.
Laude said that the air force troops were deployed to Thitu island by naval aircraft, which will give the residents of the island a chance to visit Kalayaan aboard the returning plane. He added that China’s maritime expansion into the South China Sea continues to put pressure on the Philippines, and the Philippine Navy have also been stationed in the area to defend the islands.
Six countries – Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — claim in whole or part to the South China Sea and its island chains and shoals.
And the Latest Tensions…
Via China Daily Mail (translated from Chinese media),
Relying on US support, the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye Island, a Chinese island that it has illegally occupied for years.
It will be an intolerable insult to China
According to experts, the Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea.
The battle is aimed at recovery of the island stolen by the Philippines from China.
There will be no invasion into Filipino territories.
A report in the Philippines Star confirmed the Philippines military buildup on the island.
Source: qianzhan.com “Sudden major move of Chinese troops this year to recover Zhongye Island by force”
Of course, claims that “battle will be restricted” are nothing but taunting and should China launch an offsensive here, we suspect the already dry and brittle tinder box in the South (and East) China Sea could rapidly escalate.
Wow, this is straight up insane propaganda at the highest level. He is not even trying to hide the message. CNN’s Jake Tapper just comes out and says it:
I think the American people, honestly, want security over freedom.
– Jake Tapper
Compare that to let’s say, Benjamin Franklin:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
– Benjamin Franklin
That right there demonstrates perfectly how far we have fallen culturally.